U.S. Pipe Marvel City mill: OEE automation project profile
Automated ductile iron pipe manufacturing operation advanced quality and lowered cost by applying FactoryTalk from Rockwell Automation, Microsoft SQL, and smart integration from Revere Control Systems Inc. and Stone Technologies Inc. Two goals for the Bessemer operation were to improve quality and lower costs, and both goals have been met through automated processes and improvements in technology. Here's how.
Automated ductile iron pipe manufacturing operation advanced quality and lowered cost by applying FactoryTalk from Rockwell Automation, Microsoft SQL, and smart integration from Revere Control Systems Inc., and Stone Technologies Inc.
U.S. Pipe and Foundry's automated ductile iron pipe manufacturing operation in Bessemer, AL, is an efficiency-based, streamlined, flow-through process facility. Higher quality and lower costs resulted from the application of FactoryTalk from Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK), Microsoft SQL, and smart integration from Revere Control Systems Inc., and Stone Technologies Inc. The U.S. Pipe Marvel City Mini Mill is the only ductile iron pipe operation in the United States to employ state-of-the-art machinery and transport systems, the company says. U.S. Pipe and Foundry Co. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mueller Water Products Inc. (NYSE: MWA).
Two of the goals for the Bessemer operation were to improve quality and lower costs, and both goals have been met through automated processes and improvements in technology. U.S. Pipe announced plans for the automated operation in May 2007, and it began producing orders in the fall 2008.
The operation, designed to run up to 24 hours per day, makes maximum asset utilization a requirement. New equipment assets have advanced U.S. Pipe's level of automation, while under-utilized assets at sister facilities were used where appropriate for the new operation.
While the Bessemer facility uses far more automated processes than traditional ductile iron pipe facilities, it relies heavily on a highly skilled work force. Time and development was spent on bringing the new workforce into the operation to help complete the installation.
Training is a fundamental foundation of the mill's culture by investing in people, helping them grow, and providing challenges to stimulate minds. Employees are cross-trained on all jobs within the operation, including preventive maintenance. Through automation U.S. Pipe has moved towards a workforce that monitors processes. The resulting work environment encourages lower turnover and provides a stable employee environment. State-of-the-art performance monitoring software helped established performance standards for continuous improvement. The company says that combining new controls and automation with existing manufacturing technologies has lead to superior performance.
Marvel City Mini Mill project overview
U.S. Pipe wanted an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) system to help understand the efficiency and downtime of the new automated operation. U.S. Pipe's local systems integration partner, Revere Control Systems Inc., suggested Stone Technologies Inc. provide expertise in the manufacturing execution systems (MES)/OEE space. Stone worked with U.S. Pipe to define reporting requirements and designed and implemented a solution accordingly. The implemented system tracks the efficiency, downtime and operators at each location within the line to provide production visibility. The solution uses Rockwell Automation's FactoryTalk Metrics, FactoryTalk Transaction Manager , FactoryTalk Historian Classic , and Microsoft SQL Reporting Services to provide the desired functionality.
Stone developed a custom application using ASP.Net to allow U.S. Pipe to re-categorize its downtime events and enter notes that team members can review to help make process improvements. Stone also provided custom Microsoft SQL Reporting Services reports that allowed U.S. Pipe to understand casting operations information, including valuable information from each captured data fields. U.S. Pipe Plant Systems group created applications that store production data. Stone provided custom reports to provide visibility into data stored within those databases.
Several custom screens follow, developed by Stone Technologies to satisfy the needs of U.S. Pipe. Each screen interacts with data captured by FactoryTalk Metrics or modifies data previously captured by FactoryTalk Metrics.
Production mode selection/operator log on: This HMI screen allows the operator to select the current production mode for the operation. It also allows operators to select the current shift and log into the operation.
HMI screen operator stop selection: HMI screens allow operators to choose from several categories of operator stops. Once the operator selects the category for the downtime, the operator can then select a more detailed reason for the downtime (not shown).
Downtime categorization: Operations team uses the following screen to clarify data that the system has recorded. The operations engineer would select the operation in which to modify data, the shift and product to be modified, and then can review downtime events and make any necessary modifications (splitting events into multiple time buckets, changing descriptions or adding notes).
Screen below provides ability to enter run notes by operation, shift, and product that was run.
This report shows all run notes entered by operations.
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Centrifugal casting: U.S. Pipe and Foundry Co.
Originally incorporated in 1899 as United States Cast Iron Pipe and Foundry Company, the incorporation consolidated 12 companies located in eight states. Each of the company's original plants manufactured pipe by the pit cast method. With this method, molten iron was poured in vertical molds lined with sand. In 1921, the Company began manufacture of cast iron pipe by the centrifugal casting method. U.S. Pipe and Foundry Co. says it is the largest domestic producer of ductile iron pipe in sizes 4 in. through 64 in. U.S. Pipe says it perfected ductile iron pipe production, with a product superior in strength to cast iron. It was the first in the industry to use ductile iron exclusively for all pressure pipe and fittings. Headquartered in Birmingham, AL, U.S. Pipe has facilities in Bessemer, AL, and Union City, CA.
Revere Control Systems, Stone Technologies
Revere Control Systems and Stone Technologies worked on the U.S. Pipe Project and are business units of the Automation Alliance Group (AAG), a corporation owned by system integrators that provides clients with broad process and technological capabilities worldwide. As a member company, Stone shares resources with the group for specialty technologies, to supplement staff, or to provide additional geographic coverage.
AAG member companies have more than 800 engineers, 500 technicians, and over 1500 employees, with offices in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and throughout Asia. AAG says it has expertise in the industrial controls and information, in areas including PLC and DCS systems, MES and enterprise resource planning (ERP) and can provide turn-key design and installation for electrical, control and information system projects.
For more information about technologies or system integration in this application, contact Dan Engelhard, 314.630.4592, Stone Technologies, www.stonetek.com .
-Edited by Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief, Control Engineering , www.controleng.com.